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Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:30 pm

A lot of rumors and misconceptions about SG on this site. Ask me anything.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Hutz_and_Goodman » Fri Feb 28, 2020 8:53 pm

Extremely impressed by the SG attorneys ive dealt with

What is your comp?
What are your hours?
What experience have you had with taking depos/arguing motions?
How hard to make partner?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by decimalsanddollars » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:10 pm

Did you work at other firms before Susman and, if so, how does the experience compare? Are you based in Houston or another office? Does "5th year" count your clerkship(s) or no?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Wild Card » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:18 pm

What are SG's baseline hiring standards and what are its hiring preferences? Hiring trends now compared to 5 years ago, say?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:22 pm

Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:Extremely impressed by the SG attorneys ive dealt with
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:What is your comp?
Our scale is on our website. I think we top out at $305,000 for the base salary. As a 4th year, I made over $480,000 with my bonus.
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:What are your hours?
usually around 2600. But that needs to be compared with the hours for the roughly 5-10% of big law lawyers who are realistically in the running for partner at their firm (see below). I think the hours are comparable. But my 2600 looks a lot different than 2600 at a traditional firm. It isn't 2600 behind a desk. I'm traveling for depos/hearing/trials, etc.

My colleague and I went back to our law school for our 5 year reunion. We were two of a small handful of people still at the same firm we went to out of school and the only people who actually enjoyed what we did for a living. Nearly everyone seemed pretty miserable.
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:What experience have you had with taking depos/arguing motions?
3 trials. Each trial lasted at least 4 weeks and involved over 100mm in damages . I had cross exams and direct exams in each trial , including a direct of our expert. Got to do closing argument in one trial.

In terms of motions, I've argued multiple dispositive motions in state court, federal court, and arbitration. And so many discovery motions that I've lost count.

I handled an entire temporary injunction hearing on my own, putting up the CEO of my client and arguing the merits. Obtained the injunction.

I've taken probably around 50 depos and prepped / defended tons as well. And when I say I handled something, I don't mean I assisted a partner. We usually only send 1 lawyer to a depo or hearing. It's always
amusing when my associate counterpart is sitting quietly in the corner while I deal with the lead lawyer on the other side.
Hutz_and_Goodman wrote:How hard to make partner?
We have a six year track and making partner is very realistic.

Our partner compensation system is one of the reasons our firm is so special. No matter how senior, every partner starts the year with a big 'ole zero in their comp column. You get paid for adding value to the firm, either by working cases or bringing in business (with business generation receiving a bigger percentage than billable hours). And every partner is paid under the same formula. It incentivizes partners to give good assignments to associates while they source more business. It also does not create the usual dynamic of partners trying to keep associates out of partnership in order to avoid reducing their cut of the pie. Partner comps is determined entirely by the partner's own contributions, not the presence or absence of other partners.

In my time at the firm, only one person eligible for partner didn't make it. And one year we even made 8 new partners, which is a ton for a firm with only about 100 lawyers (at that time). If you are a skilled lawyer who can run a case without partner hand-holding, you will make partner.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:30 pm

decimalsanddollars wrote:Did you work at other firms before Susman and, if so, how does the experience compare? Are you based in Houston or another office? Does "5th year" count your clerkship(s) or no?

I summered at 3 other firms. I am based in Houston. And I am in my 5th year at the firm.

My summer experiences were all pretty cookie cutter and treated associates with kid gloves. But Susman was very different. The associates didn't talk about partners like mythical overlords that they needed to hide out from. Instead they sounded like veteran trial lawyers. I'd hear small talk about favorite ways to cross someone or a crazy story about defending a wacky expert who went completely rogue.

Since joining the firm, I can say it has surpassed my expectations. From day 1, associates are taught about the business side of practicing law. We learn how to evaluate cases and vote each week on whether to take particular non-hourly cases. Incredibly, my vote is equal to Steve's vote! To incentivize development, associates get a percentage of every case we bring in.

And our trial teams are lean. I'm usually the only associate on my cases. I learned a lot from the experienced partners and was eventually trusted to run the day to day on my own. One of my cases ended up going to trial with just me and one partner. We split the witness list down the middle and had a blast.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Fri Feb 28, 2020 9:33 pm

Wild Card wrote:What are SG's baseline hiring standards and what are its hiring preferences? Hiring trends now compared to 5 years ago, say?
Our only real requirement is that you clerk for an Article III judge. Other than that, we take a pretty holistic approach. We hire very few people each year, so we can't afford to apply a generic formula or class rank cut off.

Personally, I ask every applicant why they want to be a trial lawyer. We aren't a generic big law firm. We're not a place for people to tread water. I want to work with people who are pumped to come into my office and tell me about how they just skewered a lying witness in a depo.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:37 am

Are you aware of SG taking laterals from other lit boutiques? Are matters pretty evenly cross-staffed between offices?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by LitBoutiqueAssociate » Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:57 am

How are your teams structured for big, 9 fig matters/what's the roster look like moving to trial? I'm at an above-market lit boutique as well (though I think our 4th years make closer to $400k, so our comp is lower than Susman by a fair bit, but we also don't work 2600 hrs). Our 4th/5th years typically don't get to do crosses--only directs. There are usually 2 partners on the team, and they take up the juicy stuff (opening, closing, crosses).

Also, a lot of our institutional clients have strict rules about the seniority of attorneys who are allowed to take deps/argue dispositive motions. Does Susman get special exceptions to those rules? Would you say more of your substantive experience comes from plaintiff's cases instead? Our plaintiff clients are typically very hands off.

The Susman website says 4th year base is $260k. Was your 4th year bonus over $220k? Is that typical for 4th years or contingent on personal victories or hours?

Thanks for the detailed answers.

Also-

Susman probably gets a lot of calls from potential plaintiffs. Do most of your cases come from sifting through those, or do you get more/better cases by seeking them out?

Has Susman considered moving away from the billable hour? If so, is there a reason Susman wants to stick to the billable hour? There is a growing number of trial boutiques that do not bill by the hour at all. Do you think this will happen at Susman eventually?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 1:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:Are you aware of SG taking laterals from other lit boutiques? Are matters pretty evenly cross-staffed between offices?
I can't think of a time when we have, but I don't think there would be any real opposition to it. We'd view the candidate as any other lateral. Maybe slight bump if we are familiar with the firm and like the way they work up cases. Send in your resume; we're always looking to pick up talented lawyers.

Staffing is pretty case dependent. Some clients would prefer to have matters staffed entirely by the lawyers closest to the forum state. Other clients don't have a preference. And some cases have such a national scope during the discovery process that it doesn't matter where the lawyers are based. Right now I'm on two large cases with trial teams composed of 3 different offices. I also have a few small cases that I work on with one partner out of Houston.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 1:21 am

LitBoutiqueAssociate wrote:How are your teams structured for big, 9 fig matters/what's the roster look like moving to trial?

We try to set trial teams from day 1. Clients get better results when the people most familiar with the case do the most work at trial. But every case is different because we don't really have any rules. The partner who originated the business may cut in a few other lawyers for specific skill sets. Or the trial team may go unchanged from start to finish


I'm at an above-market lit boutique as well (though I think our 4th years make closer to $400k, so our comp is lower than Susman by a fair bit, but we also don't work 2600 hrs). Our 4th/5th years typically don't get to do crosses--only directs. There are usually 2 partners on the team, and they take up the juicy stuff (opening, closing, crosses).

Again, every case is different. My first trial was just me and 1 partner. My second trial was me, 3 partners, and co-counsel. My third trial was me, three partners, and one other associate. Some partners will try to hog the good stuff, some share in the wealth.

Also, a lot of our institutional clients have strict rules about the seniority of attorneys who are allowed to take deps/argue dispositive motions. Does Susman get special exceptions to those rules?

never heard of set rules. I've heard of a few clients balking at the idea of letting associates play key roles at hearings/trials, but we usually ask them to trust us and explain that this is the way we litigate cases. Usually its not an issue because associates have so much client contact on cases that by the time a major event rolls around the client is totally comfortable with me. In fact, on many of my cases, the client calls my cell directly.

Would you say more of your substantive experience comes from plaintiff's cases instead? Our plaintiff clients are typically very hands off.

My trials have been mixed. My first big trial was on the defense side of a civil securities fraud case. I wouldn't say the difference is between plaintiff and defendant. Rather, the size/levels of bureaucracy at client is more of a determining factor

The Susman website says 4th year base is $260k. Was your 4th year bonus over $220k? Is that typical for 4th years or contingent on personal victories or hours?

that must be out of date. I made 285 base last year and my bonus was in the 190s. Slightly above median for my year, but not much.

Thanks for the detailed answers.

Also-

Susman probably gets a lot of calls from potential plaintiffs. Do most of your cases come from sifting through those, or do you get more/better cases by seeking them out?

I don't get many cold calls or random emails, if that's what you're talking about. My cases have come from client/colleague recommendations to other business owners

Has Susman considered moving away from the billable hour? If so, is there a reason Susman wants to stick to the billable hour? There is a growing number of trial boutiques that do not bill by the hour at all. Do you think this will happen at Susman eventually?

Generally, we like to bet on ourselves and align incentives with our clients. We think it is better for everyone. But some clients would prefer a traditional hourly engagement and we're happy to take that case. I don't see hourly work going away. That being said, many of our hourly clients have embraced fixed and hybrid fixed fees as a way of ensuring consistent/predictable legal expenses.
A lot here. I'll try to answer in the quoted material above in a different color.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:19 am

LitBoutiqueAssociate wrote: The Susman website says 4th year base is $260k. Was your 4th year bonus over $220k? Is that typical for 4th years or contingent on personal victories or hours?
Not OP, and no connection with the firm, but I saw a recruitment letter SG sent to clerks this year that said the max associate bonus was $250k. Not sure what to extrapolate from that, but a data point.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Feb 29, 2020 10:44 am

Jealous of your comp and experience. 5th year in big law and I’ve not argued a motion or taken a depo. Have drafted lots of dispositive motions, and done other stuff but I would love to do what you’re doing (although I’ve only been billing 2000-2200).

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by LitBoutiqueAssociate » Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:38 pm

Thanks again for taking the time to do this. A few more questions, mostly out of curiosity:

The Susman website states that you have staff attorneys. Does this mean that junior associates don't have to do things like doc/priv review at all (even for targeted productions)? One of the worst things I've had to do is notice letters to 3rd parties when producing large amounts of confidential agreements--would something like that be passed onto those staff attorneys? Would you happen to know how they're compensated?

With respect to the Art III clerkship requirement, would Susman not consider individuals with law school credentials strong enough to reliably get Art III clerkships, but did not do a clerkship for reasons unrelated to general inability to get one?

Since Susman is basically the Wachtell of lit boutiques, this might not be true, but I've noticed that many lawyers (especially in-house counsel) haven't heard of even the most selective, high compensation litigation boutiques. Have you run into issues where a potential client is unaware of Susman's reputation?

I'm personally still a little too junior to think about originating work at my firm, but do you have tips for juniors on how to start building a network? Do you give CLEs, attend bar events, etc.?

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 1:52 pm

LitBoutiqueAssociate wrote:Thanks again for taking the time to do this. A few more questions, mostly out of curiosity:

The Susman website states that you have staff attorneys. Does this mean that junior associates don't have to do things like doc/priv review at all (even for targeted productions)? One of the worst things I've had to do is notice letters to 3rd parties when producing large amounts of confidential agreements--would something like that be passed onto those staff attorneys? Would you happen to know how they're compensated?


Our staff attorneys do a lot of first level doc review, but they also do some research projects and writing. from the outside looking in, it seems comparable to 1st year associates in traditional big law. I don't know the exact comp, but I know it's in the six figures.

That being said, I think lawyers complain about doc review unnecessarily. Sure, it's boring when you have no connection to how the results are used. But when I'm reviewing docs to identify my depo exhibits or trial exhibits, I'm looking for my ammo. I'm pumped when I find killer docs. And I don't always trust others to understand my case enough to find those killer docs. And when I see a problematic doc, I can begin to plan how to address it on direct. The problem isn't doc review, it's that most associates are disconnected from the purpose of doc review.


With respect to the Art III clerkship requirement, would Susman not consider individuals with law school credentials strong enough to reliably get Art III clerkships, but did not do a clerkship for reasons unrelated to general inability to get one?

Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm. But aside from being a gate keeping function, clerkships also impart judgment/skills from watching the inner-workings of the court each day.

Since Susman is basically the Wachtell of lit boutiques, this might not be true, but I've noticed that many lawyers (especially in-house counsel) haven't heard of even the most selective, high compensation litigation boutiques. Have you run into issues where a potential client is unaware of Susman's reputation?

There are definitely potential clients who are less familiar with us, though it's a decreasing number. But I usually refer them to our client surveys on our website (100% public. warts and all), other clients who they may know, our articles about our results.

I'm personally still a little too junior to think about originating work at my firm, but do you have tips for juniors on how to start building a network? Do you give CLEs, attend bar events, etc.?

Do great work for your existing clients. I got my first case because I ran point on a matter and had the most client contact. When the client needed to recommend a lawyer to a family member's business, I got the call. Good results lead to more business. I've also gotten cases from friends and acquaintances because I ensure people in my network are aware of what I'm doing. Whether it's posting an article about my case or writing a status about my work at trial, I make sure people know I'm out there practicing at a high level on national cases.
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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by BansheeScream » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:18 pm

How often do attorneys with no connection to Houston come to work for SG in your main office? Also, in terms of applying, do candidates generally indicate an office preference or are there openings at specific offices? Thanks for doing this!

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:36 pm

BansheeScream wrote:How often do attorneys with no connection to Houston come to work for SG in your main office? Also, in terms of applying, do candidates generally indicate an office preference or are there openings at specific offices? Thanks for doing this!
It's pretty common not to have ties to Houston. In fact, I am originally from one of the coasts.

There is no wrong way to apply. If you are truly agnostic and just want to work at a truly unique firm, you can let us know and we will place you in the office with the most need. But don't do that unless you'd be happy wherever. Otherwise, just let Kimberly Young know to which office you intend to submit your application.

There's generally a larger supply of candidates on the coasts simply because of population size, so we tend to receive a lot of applications for them. And our Houston office is also the biggest, so we tend to have more associate positions to offer.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by TatteredDignity » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:46 pm

SG-Lawyer wrote: Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm.
I don’t want to take this more seriously than it was intended, but how does Steve determine whether a clerk kept her judge happy? Plenty of bad clerks out there, and no way to tell from the outside.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:09 pm

TatteredDignity wrote:
SG-Lawyer wrote: Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm.
I don’t want to take this more seriously than it was intended, but how does Steve determine whether a clerk kept her judge happy? Plenty of bad clerks out there, and no way to tell from the outside.
We call every single judge before making an offer.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by Joachim2017 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:57 am

SG-Lawyer wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:
SG-Lawyer wrote: Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm.
I don’t want to take this more seriously than it was intended, but how does Steve determine whether a clerk kept her judge happy? Plenty of bad clerks out there, and no way to tell from the outside.
We call every single judge before making an offer.
Interesting. Maybe it's because of my sample size, but I have trouble imagining a judge not endorsing his/her own clerk when a firm calls chambers and asks about the clerk as a job candidate. Unless (a) the person has truly been awful in chambers or (b) SG has an unusually close relationship with the judge, I'd think the judge would endorse his clerk, if only for loyalty/the sense of family and support fostered in chambers. But maybe SG just has a good ear for endorsements that are generic and hollow rather than genuine.

But (somewhat unrelatedly) what happens if SG is in the midst of its hiring season, and a certain judge has a policy not to let clerks interview until the clerkship is over? Is that clerk just out of luck with SG, because of the timing? I don't imagine a clerk would risk ignoring the judge's rules to go ahead and try to send in a resume within SG's hiring window.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by TatteredDignity » Sun Mar 01, 2020 2:23 pm

SG-Lawyer wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:
SG-Lawyer wrote: Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm.
I don’t want to take this more seriously than it was intended, but how does Steve determine whether a clerk kept her judge happy? Plenty of bad clerks out there, and no way to tell from the outside.
We call every single judge before making an offer.
I was thinking the same thing as Joachim—but I guess this approach would at least weed out the truly awful clerks.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sun Mar 01, 2020 2:31 pm

Joachim2017 wrote:
SG-Lawyer wrote:
TatteredDignity wrote:
SG-Lawyer wrote: Nope. That's our one real hiring rule. Steve likes to say, if you can keep a seasoned judge happy, you can do good work at a firm.
I don’t want to take this more seriously than it was intended, but how does Steve determine whether a clerk kept her judge happy? Plenty of bad clerks out there, and no way to tell from the outside.
We call every single judge before making an offer.
Interesting. Maybe it's because of my sample size, but I have trouble imagining a judge not endorsing his/her own clerk when a firm calls chambers and asks about the clerk as a job candidate. Unless (a) the person has truly been awful in chambers or (b) SG has an unusually close relationship with the judge, I'd think the judge would endorse his clerk, if only for loyalty/the sense of family and support fostered in chambers. But maybe SG just has a good ear for endorsements that are generic and hollow rather than genuine.

But (somewhat unrelatedly) what happens if SG is in the midst of its hiring season, and a certain judge has a policy not to let clerks interview until the clerkship is over? Is that clerk just out of luck with SG, because of the timing? I don't imagine a clerk would risk ignoring the judge's rules to go ahead and try to send in a resume within SG's hiring window.
Correct. Do not ignore your judge's employment rules. We don't really have employment "cycles" like other firms. If there's talent in the market that meets our standards, we will make an offer, regardless of timing. So please adhere to your judge's rules and send in an app when you're able.

And judges are often quite candid.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by LBJ's Hair » Sun Mar 01, 2020 3:30 pm

this feels ... sorta fake. it's like, very specific, but seems specifically ... wrong? (the comp, the whole "calling judges", the thing about institutional clients not caring about who does depo/trial work...)

if real, I would delete this thread immediately because you have told us you are a (a) 5th year, (b) at SG, (c) in Houston ... it's just like trivially easy to identify you.
Last edited by LBJ's Hair on Sun Mar 01, 2020 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by SG-Lawyer » Sun Mar 01, 2020 3:55 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:this feels ... sorta fake. it's like, very specific, but seems specifically ... wrong? (the comp, the whole "calling judges", the thing about institutional clients not caring about who does depo/trial work...)

if real, I would delete this thread now because you have told us you are a (a) 5th year, (b) at SG, (c) in Houston. there are 16 associates in SG's Houston office by my website count, so if some weirdo were to start looking by grad year, or someone told Steve a "5th year in the Houston office was posting about the firm on the internet..."

you do you though
100% real. A few partners and I were discussing that the clerk/student market seems to have a ton of misconceptions about our firm. So I figured I would do something about it.

I have a great relationship with my fellow associates and the partners I work with. Not concerned. Besides, anyone who knows me has already figured out my identity based on the work experience.

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Re: Susman Godfrey 5th Year Associate - AMA

Post by LBJ's Hair » Sun Mar 01, 2020 3:57 pm

interesting marketing strategy

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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